Thursday, August 18, 2011

Antonin Artaud & Pierre Klossowski

(Full name Antoine-Marie-Joseph Artaud; also wrote under the pseudonym Le Révélé) French essayist, dramatist, poet, novelist, screenwriter, and actor.
Poet and theorist of revolutionary theater, avant-garde novelist and surrealist screenwriter, actor, drug addict, and madman, Antonin Artaud is famous for the influence he exerted through his writings and performances—especially after death—on the way writers, directors, actors, and communal theater companies conceive of theater, its production, and its function. Progenitor of a form of theater whose aim is to unsettle and radically transform its audience and its culture, such as happenings, theater of the absurd, or experimental theater, Artaud called for an end to a drama of rationality, masterpieces, and psychological exploration. Artaud advocated a “theatre of cruelty”—a probing, goading, and provocative theater drawing on Symbolist sensory derangement, psychoanalytic theory, and the Balinese theater. Such a theater, according to Artaud, should employ expressive breathing, animal sounds, uninhibited gestures, huge masks, puppets, and an architecture that destroys the barrier between actors and audience in order to turn spectators into participants, and bring them to a level of visceral experience Artaud deemed more profound than any experience accessible through passive understanding or absorption of language, plot, or coherently structured action. Artaud's aim was to unblock repression and to purge violence, hypocrisy, and the malaise he saw as endemic to society. …
Major Works
Les Cenci, Artaud's play about a man who rapes his own daughter and is then murdered by men the girl hires to eliminate him, typifies Artaud's theater of cruelty. Les Cenci was produced in Paris in 1935 but was closed after seventeen dismal performances. Another illustration of Artaud's work is Le jet de sang or The Fountain of Blood (1925), a farce about the creation of the world and its destruction by humans, especially women. Like many of Artaud's other plays, scenarios, and prose, Les Cenci and The Fountain of Blood were designed to challenge conventional, civilized values and bring out the natural, barbaric instincts Artaud felt lurked beneath the refined, human facade. Of The Fountain of Blood, Albert Bermel wrote in Artaud's Theater of Cruelty: “All in all,The Fountain of Blood is a tragic, repulsive, impassioned farce, a marvelous wellspring for speculation, and a unique contribution to the history of the drama.” More than for any particular work, Artaud is remembered more for his tormented life, for having turned himself inside out in the attempt to discover a way to transform theater and society, and for the concepts he developed for effectuating transformation. Le Théâtre de la cruauté (1933) and Le Théâtre et son double (1938; The Theater and Its Double)—Artaud's most famous works—along with the novel Héliogabale (1934; Heliogabalus) and his blasphemous play Le jet de sang, rather than having an independent artistic existence, stand as manifestos and vehicles for approaching, if not achieving, the transformations Artaud proclaimed. According to author Susan Sontag: “Not until the great outburst of writing in the period between 1945 and 1948 … did Artaud, by then indifferent to the idea of poetry as a closed lyric statement, find a long-breathed voice that was adequate to the range of his imaginative needs—a voice that was free of established forms and open-ended, like the poetry of [Ezra] Pound.”
Critical Reception
In Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision, Bettina Knapp offered an explanation of Artaud's popularity long after his death: “In his time, he was a man alienated from his society, divided within himself, a victim of inner and outer forces beyond his control. … The tidal force of his imagination and the urgency of his therapeutic quest were disregarded and cast aside as the ravings of a madman. … Modern man can respond to Artaud now because they share so many psychological similarities and affinities.” Artaud's individual works, throughout his lifetime, were often received badly. However, the body of his work—seen as a call for the creation of a new theater—and his life—seen as the forge upon which his theories were fashioned—gained in the latter part of the twentieth century a numinous force, and a celebrated following.

Pierre Klossowski - Obituaries, News - The Independent
Tuesday, 14 August 2001 – Ian James
The novelist, essayist, painter and translator Pierre Klossowski was one of the most original and influential intellectual figures in 20th-century French thought and writing. Brother of the painter Balthus and a close associate of Georges Bataille, Klossowski wrote novels, philosophical essays and translations which made a decisive contribution to the development of thought and aesthetics in France from the 1950s onwards. …  
As a translator and interpreter of Friedrich Nietzsche, Klossowski also had an enormous impact on the emergence of philosophies of difference in France in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, his readings of the Nietzschean doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, and the emphasis he gave to the motifs of parody and simulacrum, exerted a key influence on philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and, arguably, Jacques Derrida.
In a French philosophical scene dominated largely by phenomenology in the 1930s and by Sartrian existentialism in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Klossowski's writings on Nietzsche helped to found a way of thinking which allowed certain, subsequently very famous, philosophers to counter the humanised Heideggerianism of Sartre, and also to challenge dominant structuralist modes of thought. It is from these philosophical displacements and critical re-inscriptions that what, in the English speaking world, became known as post-structuralism emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
Klossowski's novels constitute by far the most challenging and enigmatic part of his work. Partly because of their difficulty and apparent inaccessibility (they abound with references to theology, scholastic philosophy, as well as Gnostic heresy, and are written in a highly Latinate style and syntax), these novels are perhaps less well known than Klossowski's other work, although they have always attracted something of a cult following and offer endless literary and intellectual pleasure to the initiated reader. Le Baphomet, Klossowski's last novel, won the 1965 Prix des Critiques.

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